The World Cup is just days away now and belief is slowly growing that England can put recent disappointments behind them and progress far in Russia.

Gareth Southgate has been experimenting with his starting line-up and the best way England should approach their fixtures, starting with the match against Tunisia next Monday.

Ahead of the big kick-off, our reporters pick their favoured England starting XIs.   

England manager Gareth Southgate will be finalising his line-up ahead of the World Cup

England manager Gareth Southgate will be finalising his line-up ahead of the World Cup

England manager Gareth Southgate will be finalising his line-up ahead of the World Cup

IAN LADYMAN

(4-3-2-1) Pickford; Walker, Cahill, Maguire, Young; Dier, Henderson; Lingard, Alli, Sterling; Kane

This is a team designed to give England’s most attacking players a chance to express themselves. 

England’s only chance is if the likes of Sterling and Alli really shine and this team – with two holding players in front of two nuts and bolts central defenders – gives them the opportunity to do that. 

Marcus Rashford is unlucky to miss out but it may be that the Manchester United player is best used as an impact sub anyway.

Marcus Rashford, who scored a stunner against Costa Rica, is likely to be England's impact sub

Marcus Rashford, who scored a stunner against Costa Rica, is likely to be England's impact sub

Marcus Rashford, who scored a stunner against Costa Rica, is likely to be England’s impact sub

IAN HERBERT

(3-1-4-2) Pickford; Stones, Cahill, Maguire; Henderson; Walker, Alli, Loftus-Cheek, Young; Kane, Rashford

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s sharpness and freshness against Costa Rica puts him ahead of Jesse Lingard, who I originally had as a starter. 

The Costa Rica game also puts Marcus Rashford marginally ahead of Raheem Sterling, though that one’s close. 

I’d want Gary Cahill, with his tournament experience and form, in the mix and would have attacking asset Kyle Walker operating further ahead to make room for him.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek could offer England a sharpness in midfield at the World Cup

Ruben Loftus-Cheek could offer England a sharpness in midfield at the World Cup

Ruben Loftus-Cheek could offer England a sharpness in midfield at the World Cup

MATT BARLOW

(3-5-2) Butland; Jones, Stones, Cahill; Walker, Lingard, Dier, Alli, Rose; Sterling, Kane

Balanced, with experience at the back and broad knowledge of a system which accommodates our best wing-backs at wing-back, pace and our most creative players against opponents likely to play with caution.

RIATH AL-SAMARRAI

(3-5-1-1) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Cahill; Trippier, Alli, Henderson, Lingard, Rose; Sterling; Kane

Feels light defensively, so would consider Dier for Lingard for better opposition, but against Tunisia you should go for it. 

They looked decent against Spain but the intention should be to attack, get some momentum for the tournament. Or that’s the theory, anyway.

Eric Dier could be deployed in front of the England back three to offer additional balance

Eric Dier could be deployed in front of the England back three to offer additional balance

Eric Dier could be deployed in front of the England back three to offer additional balance

DOMINIC KING

(3-1-4-2) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Cahill; Dier; Trippier, Henderson, Alli, Rose; Sterling, Kane

From the moment England qualified last autumn through to the spring internationals and now the final warm-up games, some of the names have changed but this XI looks primed to open up the World Cup. It has good experience, it is solid and it has goals in it, too.

CRAIG HOPE

(3-4-2-1) Pickford; Walker, Cahill, Maguire; Trippier, Henderson, Alli, Rose; Sterling, Rashford; Kane

Marcus Rashford has played his way into the team and will have a point to prove to the likes of Jose Mourinho of just how he can perform when free of Manchester United’s stifling tactics. 

I’d drop Dele Alli deeper alongside Jordan Henderson, who has the experience and calmness to support what could prove a four-man attack when Alli gets forward. 

Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose are perfect for the wide roles, while Gary Cahill can be the bedrock of a three-man defence if flanked by the more expressive Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire. Jamie Vardy needs to be kept in reserve for a Plan B.

Dele Alli's spark and passing ability will be fundamental to England's chances in Russia

Dele Alli's spark and passing ability will be fundamental to England's chances in Russia

Dele Alli’s spark and passing ability will be fundamental to England’s chances in Russia

JACK GAUGHAN

(3-5-2) Pickford; Jones, Stones, Maguire; Walker, Lingard, Henderson, Alli, Rose; Sterling, Kane

Kyle Walker seems to be the preferred option at centre-half, and is likely to start there, but I’d prefer to utilise his pace and power down the right. 

Plus Phil Jones offers extra defensive solidity. Raheem Sterling’s consistency for Manchester City should mean he plays off Harry Kane, while there has to be a place for Jesse Lingard.

Jordan Henderson gives the midfield more aggression than Eric Dier. 

Kyle Walker has slotted in on the right side of England's three-man defence in recent games

Kyle Walker has slotted in on the right side of England's three-man defence in recent games

Kyle Walker has slotted in on the right side of England’s three-man defence in recent games

ADAM SHERGOLD

(3-1-4-2) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Cahill; Dier; Trippier, Lingard, Alli, Rose; Sterling, Kane

I’m desperate for England to shed the conservative style of playing that has held them back at previous tournaments, but obviously there has to be a balance to the side.

I think positioning Eric Dier in front of the back three will facilitate the ball playing out of defence that Gareth Southgate is keen on.

His presence would hopefully free Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard to drive forward and do what they do best, while Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose can supply ammunition from wide areas. 

Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy are decent impact options off the bench when we inevitably find ourselves goalless with Panama with 20 minutes left… 

Jesse Lingard has been pushing for inclusion in the England starting line-up in recent months

Jesse Lingard has been pushing for inclusion in the England starting line-up in recent months

Jesse Lingard has been pushing for inclusion in the England starting line-up in recent months

KIERAN GILL

(3-5-1-1) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier, Lingard, Henderson, Alli, Rose; Sterling; Kane

Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli would be able to step up from the five to join the attack but I like the look of Raheem Sterling behind Harry Kane at the very top. This means no spot for Marcus Rashford but I see him as more of an impact sub.

AMITAI WINEHOUSE

(3-5-2) Pickford; Walker, Stones, Cahill; Trippier, Alli, Henderson, Delph, Rose; Kane, Sterling

Marcus Rashford shone against Costa Rica but Raheem Sterling is the most individually talented player in the England squad. He has to play. 

Fabian Delph worked his way into the side with his display at Elland Road, as did Danny Rose. 

The rest essentially picks itself, although Harry Maguire could displace Gary Cahill over the month.

Harry Kane, seen here scoring against Nigeria, will be integral to England's chances 

Harry Kane, seen here scoring against Nigeria, will be integral to England's chances 

Harry Kane, seen here scoring against Nigeria, will be integral to England’s chances 

 

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